Money to Erase Your Sins
In Martin Luther’s time, Pope Leo X was head of the Church. The Pope’s taste for extravagance drained the treasury in only eight years. But St. Peter’s Basilica needed to be rebuilt, so the pope offered indulgences in exchange for funds to rebuild the cathedral. Indulgences were letters of pardon which guaranteed forgiveness of sins.
This was the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation
The Indulgence is predicated on two beliefs. First, in the sacrament of penance it did not suffice to have the guilt (culpa) of sin forgiven through absolution alone; one also needed to undergo temporal punishment (poena, from p[o]enitentia, “penance”) because one had offended Almighty God. Second, indulgences rested on belief in purgatory, a place in the next life where one could continue to cancel the accumulated debt of one’s sins.